Our Music During Lent – “Amazing Grace”

“Amazing Grace”

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

 

Sunday’s gospel is the story of Jesus giving sight to the blind man and so much more…spiritual blindness. If you read John 9, you’ll see the many layers of the story. “Amazing Grace” contains the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that we can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God.

The hymn was written by English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807). Newton grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his early life was marked by his headstrong disobedience.  This disobedience led to being pressed into the Royal Navy, and after deserting, becoming involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his ship so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. In 1754 he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ten years later, after his ordination, Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” using his personal experience and the New Testament as the basis for many of the lyrics: the first verse can be traced to the stories of the Prodigal Son and the blind man.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The hymn has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named NEW BRITAIN.  A folk tune typical of the Appalachian tunes from the southern United States, NEW BRITAIN is the tune to which “Amazing Grace” is most frequently sung today.

DID YOU KNOW? “Amazing Grace” is probably the most famous of all folk hymns; it is performed about 10 million times a year.  Its universal message has led to its crossover into secular music: it has been sung in various venues (including Woodstock) by such popular music greats as Mahalia Jackson, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash, and is often played on bagpipes during funerals.

 

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